UN Geneva Press Briefing - 16 April 2024
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UN Geneva Press Briefing - 16 April 2024

UN GENEVA PRESS BRIEFING

16 April 2024

Michele Zaccheo, Chief of the Radio, TV and Webcast Section at the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing which was attended by spokespersons and representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UN Women, UN Trade and Development, the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

 

Situation in the occupied Palestinian territory

Susanne Mikhail, Regional Director of UN Women for the Arab States, speaking from Cairo, focused on the specific needs of women and girls in Gaza. While more than 32,000 Palestinians had been killed in Gaza to date, it was estimated that over 10,000 of them were women. UN Women estimated that 6,000 mothers had been killed, leaving some 19,000 children behind. Those women who had survived had often lost their loved ones and most material possessions. More than 8,000 women were believed to have become widows during the ongoing conflict; they were now in a particularly vulnerable situation as they were often the sole providers for their families. A recent survey showed that 87 percent of women in Gaza found it harder to access food and water than men. The entire population in Gaza was now food- and water-insecure. More than half a million women and girls of reproductive age were particularly vulnerable; many of them had no protection or dignity kits, living in crowded settings and often with no access so safe water and sanitation. An increase in urinary tract infections had been reported. Lactating women had high daily water and calorie needs, but clean drinking water was available in much more limited quantities than what they needed. Ms. Mikhail emphasized the tremendous strength and resilience of women and girls in Gaza. UN Women worked closely with local women associations and groups, which helped the UN better understand the real needs of people on the ground. She said that the increased volatility in the past week once again highlighted the pressing need for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. 

Ravina Shamdasani, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that the OHCHR urged all States with influence to do everything in their power to halt the increasingly horrific human rights and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, rising violence and targeted attacks in the West Bank, and the heightened risk of wider escalation of conflict in the Middle East. Resolving the catastrophic situation of civilians in Gaza had to remain a priority.

Israel continued to impose unlawful restrictions on the entry and distribution of humanitarian assistance, and to carry out widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure. The High Commissioner repeated that there had to be an immediate ceasefire, the hostages had to be released, and full, unfettered humanitarian aid had to be allowed to flow immediately. Those delivering or trying to access humanitarian assistance ought never be attacked.  

In the West Bank, escalating violence over the past few days was also a matter of grave concern. Palestinians had been subjected to waves of attacks by hundreds of Israeli settlers, often accompanied or supported by Israeli Security Forces. Following the killing of a 14-year-old Israeli boy from a settler family, four Palestinians, including a child, had been killed and Palestinian property had been destroyed in revenge attacks. According to information received by the UN Human Rights Office, armed settlers and Israeli forces had entered a number of towns including Al Mughayyer, Khirbit Abu Falah, Kufer Malilk, Al Mazra'a Asharqiya, Beitin village in Ramallah, Duma and Qusra in Nablus, as well as the Bethlehem and Hebron Governorates. Dozens of Palestinians were reportedly injured, including through the use of firearms, by settlers and ISF, and hundreds of homes and other buildings, as well as cars, were torched. Ms. Shamdasani stressed that Israel, as the occupying power, had to take all measures in its power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety in the occupied West Bank. This obligation included protecting Palestinians from settler attacks, and ending unlawful use of force against Palestinians by the ISF.

Full statement can be read here

Tess Ingram, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), speaking from Cairo, who had left Gaza the previous day after having spent two weeks there, said she had been struck by the number of wounded children she had seen. Their lives had been forever changed; the most recent data showed that 12,000 children had been injured in Gaza since the start of the conflict, the number which was almost certainly an underestimate. The wounded children’s stories painted a harrowing story of the ongoing conflict, said Ms. Ingram. She spoke of some of the numerous injured children she had personally met. The nature of the war was volatile and often affected civilians and disproportionately affected children. Ms. Ingram reminded that every second person in Gaza was under 18 years of age. The lack of medical equipment and medicine often left injured children languish in pain. Only 3,500 people, most of them children, had so far been evacuated abroad. Urgent medical cases in Gaza had to be allowed access to necessary medical care or be evacuated to third countries. With one child killed or injured every ten minutes, what was needed more than anything else was a ceasefire, stressed Ms. Ingram. “Stop the war. It’s enough. We are children. What is our fault?”, an injured boy in Gaza had told Ms. Ingram.

Responding to questions from the media, Ms. Ingram said that it was difficult to ascertain the precise data of children with amputations. Some of the cases were too severe for patients to be evacuated, and sometimes evacuations came too late. There were reported incidents of people being injured with airdrops, she said. 

Replying to a question, Tarik Jašarević, for the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the WHO also did not have exact data on amputations. Only several thousand people had been evacuated so far, while the needs were much higher. Over 67,000 people in Gaza had been injured to date, he said. The Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest one in Gaza, had been severely damaged, and the work of cleaning the debris was enormous. More than half of the WHO missions to help the still functioning hospitals had been either denied, delayed, or faced other obstacles. WHO’s job was to do whatever it was possible to support what little was left of Gaza’s health system, and to inform the world about the situation and the pressing needs in the Strip. 

James Elder, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), added that facts very much mattered, which was why it was important to have journalists on the ground as well. Imminent famine was another pending threat, he reiterated. Nearly 14,000 children had been reportedly killed and the same number injured since October, which was probably an undercount. 

One year of war in Sudan: impact on agriculture and food security

Adam Yao, Deputy Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Sudan, speaking from Port Sudan, stated that, one year since the start of the conflict in Sudan, the food insecurity situation had reached absolutely terrifying depths, especially in the hard-to-reach areas. As of February 2024, nearly 18 million people faced acute levels of food insecurity, of which 4.9 million were at a major risk of falling into catastrophic levels if the conflict continued and humanitarian assistance was not provided. The ongoing hostilities were brutally undermining agricultural production, putting people's livelihoods in jeopardy. With up to 60 to 80 percent of the entire population dependent on or engaged in agriculture for their income, the repercussions were devastating, stressed Mr. Yao.

According to the preliminary findings of the Annual Crop and Food Supply Assessment Report for the Sudan, the cereal production had witnessed a 46 percent decline from the previous year and about 40 percent below the average of the prior five years. In West Darfur State, insecurity during the planting season had led to complete crop failure. As the main planting season approached, providing critical support for the emergency production of key local staple cereals—sorghum, millet, sesame, and more — was not just necessary; it was imperative. Mr. Yao explained that FAO urgently sought USD 104 million to bolster food production, protect livestock and help the agriculture sector recover before conflict destroys the gains sown by generations. Now, more than ever, the Sudanese people could not afford to be failed. The support they needed was urgent and non-negotiable, and a ceasefire was needed. 

Michele Zaccheo, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), referred to the Secretary-General’s statement the previous day, on the first anniversary of the conflict in Sudan, in which he had lamented that the world was forgetting about the people of Sudan.

Announcements

Catherine Huissoud, for UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that UNCTAD was today releasing its Trade and Development Report update, which forecast a further deceleration in growth for 2024. This year, global economic growth would be hampered by falling investments and sluggish trade dynamics. In her remarks, UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan underscored the disproportionate impact on developing countries. The report advocated for a multifaceted approach that included fiscal, monetary, and investment-boosting measures aimed at achieving financial sustainability, creating jobs, and improving income distribution. Grynspan called for a reform in the global financial safety net to provide fiscal flexibility for countries striving to meet the Sustainable Development Goals

Thomas Croll-Knight, for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), said that the Resource Management Week to be held at the Palais des Nations the following week would gather experts from around the world to advance cooperation on UN tools to address the sustainability crisis in resource use. Massive quantities of Critical Raw Materials like lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, graphite, and rare earth elements would be needed for the energy transition. To meet the demand for these and other resources, extraction could rise by 60 percent by 2060 from 2020 levels, which would come at huge environmental cost as resource extraction and processing account for over 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, with huge impacts on biodiversity and water stress. Overall demand for materials had to be stemmed through measures for energy efficiency, circular economy, and resource sobriety. Mr. Croll-Knight explained that the UN Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) was a common language and standard for classifying, managing, and reporting all energy and mineral resources. Based on UNFC, the United Nations Resource Management System (UNRMS) offered a set of principles and requirements for the full life-cycle of resource extraction and processing activities. More information is available here.

Zeina Awad, for the International Labour Organization (ILO), informed that on 22 April, ILO would hold a press conference at 10:30 am to unveil its new report on the impact of climate change on the health of workers. The report “Ensuring Health and Safety at Work in a Changing Climate” would be presented by the senior specialist on occupational health and safety Manal Azzi. The report would contain new figures and the broader impact of climate change on health of workers, including diseases and other conditions, going beyond just heat stress. Materials would be available, under embargo, as of 19 April; the embargo would be lifted on 22 April at 11 am, she explained. 

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that on 22 April, the Earth Day, WMO and the European Union’s Copernicus Service would be releasing a State of the Climate in Europe report. An embargoed press conference would be held at 2 pm today, hosted by Copernicus. On 23 April, State of the Climate in Asia report would be released at a regional meeting of the UN Economic Commission for East Asia and the Pacific. 

Michele Zaccheo, for the for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said that today at noon, there would be a briefing in advance of the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Situation in Ethiopia, which would start at 3 pm. Speakers at the briefing would be: Shiferaw Teklemariam, Commissioner of the Ethiopian Disaster Risk Management Commission; Andrew Mitchell, UK Deputy Foreign Secretary and Minister for Development and Africa; and Ramiz Alakbarov, UN Assistant Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia. 

On 18 April at 9:30 am, the World Health Organization (WHO) would hold a press conference to present new agreed terminology for pathogens that transmit through the air. The material would be under embargo until 12 noon that day. Speakers at the conference would be Dr. Jeremy Farrar, Chief Scientist, and Dr. Lisa Askie, Scientist, Methods Lead, Methods & Standards Team, Science Division, both at the WHO.


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